How to Carve Shell Material for Jewelry Making

Create beach-inspired jewelry pieces with natural or manufactured shells, for sale at many craft stores. Thick, durable shells become lasting jewelry pieces. Follow this detailed tutorial to learn how to carve a shell for your next jewelry project.

Step 1

Draw a pointed oval shape along the inside of the shell. The underside of the shell becomes the front of your pendant. Position the oval on the far left or right to make it easier to carve out. Make sure the top of the oval meets the top edge of the shell.

Pencil can be easily erased, making it an ideal marker for this project.
Pencil can be easily erased, making it an ideal marker for this project. (Image: How to Carve Shell Material for Jewelry Making)

Step 2

Draw dotted lines at equal intervals from the outline of the oval to the edge of the shell.

Tip

  • The top of the pointed oval should reach the top edge of the shell. This saves you the hassle of cutting out the top portion. The bottom of the pointed oval should have two diagonal lines leading to it.
Dotted lines around the main shape serve as a cutting guide.
Dotted lines around the main shape serve as a cutting guide. (Image: How to Carve Shell Material for Jewelry Making)

Step 3

Attach the cut-off emery wheel to the Dremel tool. Begin cutting the shortest dotted lines, closest to the shell’s edge.

Warning

  • A Dremel tool must be used slowly. Do not drag or push the tool onto the shell. This will cause the wheel to slip past the shell, potentially hurting your fingers. The best technique is to gently hold the tool against the shell, barely moving and applying little pressure. The wheel gradually grinds and carves the shell material.

Tip

  • Leave the longest dotted line for last. This line is typically the hardest to cut, as it makes up the bulk of the shell.
Slowly and carefully cut away the shell.
Slowly and carefully cut away the shell. (Image: How to Carve Shell Material for Jewelry Making)

Step 4

Before continuing, double check that the top of the pointed oval meets the top edge of the shell. Adjust if necessary.

Make any adjustments before carving the rest of the shell.
Make any adjustments before carving the rest of the shell. (Image: How to Carve Shell Material for Jewelry Making)

Step 5

Begin cutting along the solid line of the oval shape.

Warning

  • Every now and then, you may need to turn the shell over in order to get a better grip. This keeps your fingers from slipping while you work.
Keep a good grip each time you use the cutting wheel.
Keep a good grip each time you use the cutting wheel. (Image: How to Carve Shell Material for Jewelry Making)

Step 6

Continue cutting along the oval shape. Do not focus on creating perfect edges because you sand them later.

Focus on separating the shape from the rest of the shell.
Focus on separating the shape from the rest of the shell. (Image: How to Carve Shell Material for Jewelry Making)
Uneven edges will be fixed at a latter step.
Uneven edges will be fixed at a latter step. (Image: How to Carve Shell Material for Jewelry Making)

Step 7

Continue cutting until you separate the pointed oval from the rest of the shell.

Excess shell parts can be used for additional projects.
Excess shell parts can be used for additional projects. (Image: How to Carve Shell Material for Jewelry Making)

Step 8

Attach the aluminum oxide grinding stone to the Dremel tool. Smooth down the edges, forming the oval shape.

Step 9

Attach the drum sander to the Dremel tool. Sand the flat surface and sides of the shell for a smooth finish.

Sand paper can be used instead of a sanding drum attachment.
Sand paper can be used instead of a sanding drum attachment. (Image: How to Carve Shell Material for Jewelry Making )

Step 10

Attach the felt polishing wheel to the Dremel tool. Polish the shell’s surface to a shine.

Polish the shell until it reaches your desired level of shininess.
Polish the shell until it reaches your desired level of shininess. (Image: How to Carve Shell Material for Jewelry Making )

Step 11

Attach the high-speed cutter to the Dremel tool. Create a hole near one of the pointed ends of the oval.

Tip

  • To create a hole straight through the shell, apply very light pressure. Do not move the Dremel tool sideways or push it though the shell. The tool should be steady and barely move; it grinds the shell gradually.
Cutting a hole lets you use the shell in jewelry making.
Cutting a hole lets you use the shell in jewelry making. (Image: How to Carve Shell Material for Jewelry Making )

Step 12

Shake off all dust particles. String, cord or a jump ring can be attached to your handmade carved shell.

A shell pendant can be used in handmade necklaces, bracelets and earrings.